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Title II Disability - for Those Who
Have Paid Into the System

   Social Security’s Title II Disability program offers disabled workers monthly benefits and access to medical care through the Medicare program.  The Disability program offers many advantages over the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, although when you first apply, you should make sure to apply for both Disability and SSI).

Qualifying for Title II Disability

   In order to qualify for Disability, you must be disabled per Social Security Administration regulations and you must be insured for Title II.  Social Security’s disability definition looks at both your medical diagnoses as well as your work capacity.  A person is disabled for Social Security purposes if he is unable to work because of a medical or mental health condition, and that condition has caused or is likely to cause the claimant to be out of work for at least 12 months or result in death.

Are Your “Insured” For Title II Benefits?

   In addition to the medical and vocational elements of disability, a Title II claimant must also be insured for Social Security benefits.  There are many rules to determine what it means to be insured, but in most cases, you are insured if you have worked five out of the past ten years.

   More specifically, Social Security says that you need to have worked for 20 out of the last 40 quarters prior to the date you became disabled.  Each year has four quarters:

  • January - March - quarter 1
  • April - June - quarter 2
  • July - September - quarter 3
  • October - December - quarter 4

If one year has 4 quarters, then ten years has 40 quarters.  For Social Security purposes, you have worked a full quarter if you have earned around $900 for that three month period.  In 2003, the figure was $890 per quarter, for 2004 it is $900, for 2005 it is $920, and for 2006 it is $970.  You can read more about the insured status requirement here.

   Further, if you earned four quarter’s worth of earnings in a calendar year, you are credited with four quarter’s credit, even if all of your earnings were in one month.  For example, for 2004, a full year’s credits equal $3,600 (4 x $900). If you earned $3,600 or more in 2004, you receive 4 credits in your earnings record.

Have You Worked for Five Out of the Last Ten Years?

   The 20 quarter hours (5 year’s worth of work) must be within the ten years prior to the date you became disabled.  If you worked for 20 years, but stopped working in 1990, and you apply for Disability in 2003, you will not be insured for Title II because your work was too far in the past.

   Note that Social Security retirement does not demand that your work history must be recent history.  Unlike the disability program, the retirement program does look at lifetime earnings.

Apply As Soon As You Think that You are Disabled

   Because Disability looks at the recent past, you are generally better off applying sooner rather than later, and you are generally better off alleging an onset date at the earliest possible time you became unable to work.  You can apply by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213.

   Whether you are insured or not for Title II can be confusing and upsetting.  For example, if your medical condition prevented you from working full time and you have spent the last five years working very part time or volunteering, you may run out of your insured status.  An experienced disability lawyer can help you find out whether or not you are insured for Title II.  In addition, you can submit a form to Social Security to obtain a free report about your insured status.

   If you think that Social Security has wrongfully concluded that you are not insured for Title II, and you think they are wrong, you may want to ask an experienced Social Security disability lawyer to help you find out your date first insured, your date last insured, your payment amount and help you come up with an onset date that is most beneficial to you.

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